Tart cherry juice may boost athlete recovery post-exercise: Study

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers highlight the potency of Montmorency cherries in repairing exercise-induced muscle stress in football players. ©iStock
Researchers highlight the potency of Montmorency cherries in repairing exercise-induced muscle stress in football players. ©iStock

Related tags: Inflammation

Montmorency tart cherry juice may be a promising recovery aid in sports nutrition as a study highlights its potency in repairing exercise-induced muscle stress in football players.

Results from this latest study suggest the juice’s benefits may extend to those participating in prolonged, repeat sprint activity such as football, rugby and lacrosse.

Here, the team from Northumbria University in the UK found functional performance could be maintained for longer.

Lower levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a marker for inflammation, were also recorded as well as athletes reporting a decrease in muscle soreness following extended activity.

The research builds on existing studies​ suggesting the juice may benefit athletes involved in high-intensity strength training, cycling and metabolic exercise.

Juicing up to perform

strawberry fruit berry polyphenols iStock.com fanelie rosier
Polyphenols are found in such fruits as grapes and strawberries. ©iStock/fanelie rosier

The team enrolled 16 male football players aged 21 to 29. The athletes were randomly placed in either a Montmorency tart cherry concentrate group or a placebo control group.

The cherry group participants drank 30 ml of Montmorency juice mixed with 100 ml of water twice per day through one drink in the morning (8am) and one on the evening (6pm).

This was carried out for four days after which an adapted version of the Loughborough Intermittent Shuttle Test (LISTADAPT) was carried out. The athletes then continued drinking the juice for a further three days.

The athletes were asked to follow a low polyphenolic diet for two days before each Montmorency or placebo supplementation routine and throughout the duration of the seven-day experiment.

Food diaries were also used to help the team measure the potency of the phenolic-rich compounds contained within the cherry concentrate.

“There is a number of investigations that have shown a positive effect from other exercise forms such as strenuous cycling, long distance running and heavy resistance exercise,”​ said Glyn Howatson, professor of human and applied physiology at Northumbria University in Newcastle.

“In the most part, these exercises are damaging and we think that the cherry juice can help reduce the inflammation and oxidative stress associated with these exercises.” 

Montmorency cherry juice has been the subject of many studies in recent years, which have homed in on its generous polyphenol content and its purported anti-inflammatory and oxidative stress effects.

In this study, these polyphenols were thought to reduce post-exercise IL-6 suggesting a lower acute inflammatory response.

Specifically, the IL-6 pathway, which is initiated during the secondary chronic inflammatory response to cellular disruption, has been associated with certain enzyme processes that inhibit​ muscular performance.

“Seemingly, Montmorency cherry supplementation reduced (but did not abolish) this process and allowed for greater maintenance of muscular performance in the recovery period,”​ the study reported.

The Olympic Games

running sports athletics muscle
The upcoming Olympic Games in Rio may see the use of Montmorency cherry juice as a recovery aid for the athletes.©iStock

Howatson believed the consumption of Montmorency cherry juice might also benefit recovery in other forms of sport such as weightlifting or gymnastics.

These sports test other capabilities of an athlete such as explosive strength and often require a different recovery regime.

“The upcoming Olympic Games provide a number of scenarios where cherry juice will be used for athletes who need to compete several times in a relatively short duration,“ ​explained Howatson.

“In other words where there are multiple rounds of competition and the window for recovery is short. Cherry juice could help accelerate recovery to allow for greater performance in subsequent rounds that might otherwise not be possible.”

Source: Nutrients

Published online ahead of print, doi:10.3390/nu8070441

“New study: Montmorency tart cherry juice found to aid recovery of soccer players.”

Authors: Phillip Bell, Glyn Howatson et al

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